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Business school deans call for lifting country-specific visa caps

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More than 50 deans of U.S. business schools penned an open letter Tuesday to President Trump and congressional leaders, calling for reforms to immigration policies affecting high-skilled workers.

The letter, spearheaded by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) and published as a full-page ad in the Washington edition of the Wall Street Journal, says that “a combination of our outdated laws, artificial regional and skills-based caps on immigration, and recent spikes in hostility are closing the door to the high-skilled immigrants our economy needs to thrive.”

{mosads}The group called for overhauling the H-1B visa system and “removing ‘per-country’ visa caps,” a system that limits employment- or family-based green card offers such that citizens of no one country can receive more than 7 percent of those visas each year.

A white paper published by GMAC the same day as the ad argued that skilled students from India and China are more likely to come to U.S. schools if they have the option of staying and working after graduation.

“The research evidence around the value of skilled immigration is completely unambiguous,” Bill Boulding, the chair of the GMAC board and dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, said in a phone interview with The Hill. “Increasing the pipeline of talent coming into the United States actually creates jobs for people in the United States.”

“If you erect barriers to talent coming in then companies grow frustrated with their inability to fill jobs and so they begin to export jobs, which is what the research also shows,” he added.

The House passed a bipartisan bill over the summer removing per-country caps for employment-based green cards, but the legislation died in the Senate.

Matthew Slaughter, the dean of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and a signatory on Tuesday’s letter, said in a phone interview that U.S. immigration policies are “constraining the innovative capacity of America to create new jobs, expand and grow new companies, raise average standards of living and average wages the more that we limit how many talented individuals we have in the U.S. economy.”

He added that deans at top U.S. business schools like those on the letter — which includes all Ivy League institutions with business schools except for Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania — are uniquely positioned to notice a decline in attracting talented individuals to immigrate to America by monitoring the number of applications they receive annually.

Both Boulding and Slaughter argued there should be bipartisan agreement on the need for reforming immigration policies in this area.

“This is a bipartisan viewpoint,” Boulding said. “This is something that’s in the national interest.”

But not all experts agree that the GMAC-proposed policies would have entirely positive effects.

“I think the paper tends to conflate the benefits brought about by scientists and entrepreneurs with the benefits brought about by immigrants with bachelor’s degrees coming in on the capped H-1B visa program more generally,” Kirk Doran, an economics professor at the University of Notre Dame — which was not a signatory to the letter — wrote in an email to The Hill.

“The typical H-1B visa immigrant to a for-profit company is not a scientist, engineer, or entrepreneur. Rather, the typical H-1B visa immigrant to a for-profit company is someone doing low-level coding, tech support, or accounting,” he added. “We’re not getting the same benefits from someone doing tech support as we get from someone who founds a company or generates new scientific knowledge.”

Doran said that while he is a proponent of more highly skilled migration, “primarily for ethical reasons,” there are external factors that the white paper does not take into account.

“When one looks at the papers that rely on [these external factors], one finds many examples of papers which identify substantial groups of losers from highly skilled immigration,” Doran said.

“Many of these papers are written by people who, like me, are supporters of highly skilled immigration, but acknowledge that there will be winners and losers,” he said. “None of those papers are cited in this white paper.”

Tags Dartmouth College Donald Trump Duke University H-1B visas high-skilled immigration Immigration visas

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